Flt Sgt Copping's P-40 From The Egyptian Desert

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Some caution is required there. The situation that existed prior to the regime change was a different situation to the one after. Any agreement that existed with the old regime would not necessarily be honoured by the new one - and so it transpired.

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Is that factual, or is it still at N Weald?

Kennet has moved from North Weald and the Spitfire fuselage along with its parallel restoration Seafire 46 are with a major specialist subcontractor.

Lost to the nation?...hardly.

PK664 was substantially incomplete with no engine and gearbox and more importantly no 20 series undercarriage. It had been in RAF Museum stores since 1988 save for a period in 2006/7 when the basic components were displayed dismantled at the Science Museum.

No, the nation now gets proximity to two airworthy 20/40 series aircraft based with a long established collector operated from central UK. Looks like win win to me


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No, the nation now gets two airworthy 20/40 series aircraft

Hardly the "Nation gets"...... A "private individual gets" is more accurate, who may sell or dispose of as he pleases, both at home or abroad.... What the Nation actually gets is the loss of two aircraft.

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Bruce in post 2420 you refer to a detailed narrative above by Robin with RAFM comments included. Can you give a post number please.

Thanks -sorry to burden you

Post can be found between 2416 and 2417 - Moggy

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Hardly the "Nation gets".....

Quite right. Post amended. :)


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Were these Spitfire components handed over by RAFM "gratis" and for nothing??

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Have you not read any of the above Planemike?

I know there's a lot of information but the terms of the contract are (we are now told) that it was traded for the recovery of the P40 from the desert to a safe place.


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There are 81 pages spanning seven years. I have done my best to keep up !!!
Well maybe I am dense but to me the RAFM does not seem to have too well out of this deal.


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Jeepman: I can't seem to see my own post either! Am happy to re-post if it has been deleted or I did it in some ham-fisted way!

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Hi all. I am the reporter from The Sun who has been reporting on Dennis and the Kittyhawk for a number of years now. I have posted here previously.

We have done a story about the latest development which can be seen here


I thought I would post a bit more info here as a lot of people are interested in the case and it might clear up a few questions which have been asked.

We didn't have space in the story to include the full response from the RAF Museum but I have pasted it below. It deals with a couple of issues as to whether any help was offered to the Egyptians with the restoration and whether the contract with Kennet was to just recover the Kittyhawk from the desert or to return it to the UK.

I have also attached a couple of documents which I have obtained through Freedom of Information requests to the MoD and the RAf Museum. I don't think I have posted the documents relating to the recovery of the Kittyhawk previously. They are fairly irrelevant now, given what has happened, but I just thought people might be interested as they include some technical details as to its condition when it was recovered.

I have also re-posted what to me is the most interesting document of the whole affair which is the report from the Egyptians regarding DNA tests supposedly done on human remains found near the Kittyhawk.

I have posted this previously but thought it was worth a re-visit as the location of the bones remain a mystery.

To recap - the Kittyhawk was found in Feb 2012; in June 2012 a team of Italian archaeologists, accompanied by a local military guide, found human remains around 5km from the crash site. They left the bones in place. When they returned a few weeks later the bones had been removed. Egyptian authorities later said they had carried out DNA tests on the remains which triggered this letter from them to the British Embassy in Cairo saying that it had not been possible to extra DNA from the bones due to their age, the fact that they contained parasitic and bacterial impurities and because they had been exposed to sunlight (I spoke to a number of DNA experts who said despite all that it would still have been possible to extract DNA) and that the DNA from all of the bones came from the same person (how did the DNA match if they couldn't extract DNA?).

This letter was accepted without question by the British Embassy (letter attached).

Further efforts to try and locate the bones to request another DNA test were met by an impenetrable wall of bureaucracy.

So the bones must, presumably, still be in storage in a lab in Cairo or have been disposed of. Given the latest development I plan to ask the same questions as before of the Egyptian authorities re this aspect but in reality I think it unlikely there will ever be any movement on this.

With regards to the other letters that I have posted - these come from an FoI request of the RAF Museum and are all in relation to the events of 2012 and the attempts to recover the Kittyhawk. They are pretty technical and have all been superseded by recent events in Egypt of course but I thought people might be interested to see them.

The one last thing that could be achieved, I think, is for a plaque commemorating Dennis and his story to be erected next to the Kittyhawk.

The only way this could be achieved, I suspect, is if the MoD and/or the RAF Museum get on board and make the request to the El Alamein Military Museum.

I will put that to the MoD and the RAF Museum but if anyone has any bright ideas or thoughts or suggestions - or if anyone's friend's brother's girlfriend's cousin happens to work at the El Alamein museum! - then feel free to get in touch.

robin.perrie at the-sun.co.uk

Apologies for the length of post but it's not a simple story!

Have a good day everyone.


PS Can't seem to attach documents re recovery so have cut and pasted them below....so double apologies for the length!
** Full response from the RAF Museum to the restoration: As the RAF Museum, it is our duty to safeguard the heritage of the Royal Air Force. Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk 1A ET574 which crash landed in the Egyptian desert in 1942 is a unique
example of its kind and therefore, as a matter of urgency, needed to be secured from the
attention of looters as damage was already evident in the short time following its discovery.
The choice back in 2012 was to either let the aircraft be destroyed or to ensure this
important piece of Royal Air Force heritage was kept safe. The Museum’s immediate priority
was to ensure the Kittyhawk was recovered to a secure location. This was achieved
successfully and the aircraft was placed in a location where it was not under any threat. The
next step in this two stage project was to negotiate its delivery to the UK. Negotiations to
achieve this aim were conducted in association with the British Embassy in Cairo and the
Egyptian authorities; however the process was complicated by the delicate political situation
in Egypt.
The Egyptian Government informed the RAF Museum last year that they intended to keep
the aircraft and display it at the El Alamain Military Museum. Clearly the RAF Museum would
have preferred the Kittyhawk to be brought back to the UK but it is legally the property of the
Egyptian Government and we welcome the fact that it is safe and on public display. The
Museum did offer to support with conservation and interpretation advice if required.
With regard to the Spitfire, the agreement with Kennet Aviation, which was thoroughly
vetted, was to ensure that the Kittyhawk was recovered to a safe environment. This was
achieved. The Spitfire involved (Mk22 PK664) was one of a number of former ‘gate guardian’
Spitfires transferred to the Museum by the Ministry of Defence to support exchanges in order
for us to acquire examples of aircraft types missing from our collection. Although the
Kittyhawk was not acquired through the process, its future was safeguarded to the best of
the Museum’s ability.
The Museum’s disposal policy reflects the on-going commitment of the Museum to carry out
disposals in a responsible and ethical manner.

In July 2012 a small team from the Royal Air Force Museum (London) travelled to the Egyptian Sahara desert to recover Curtiss Kittyhawk 1A ET574. Over the course of eight days the Kittyhawk was dismantled in-situ and delivered into secure storage at the El Alamein Military Museum. The objective of this report is to provide a summary of the Kittyhawk’s overall condition.
Piloted by Flight Sergeant Denis Copping of 260 Squadron (RAF) Kittyhawk ET574 went missing during a ferry flight on June 28th 1942. At the time of its loss the aircraft was being flown to a Repair and Salvage Unit to rectify damage inflicted by enemy action plus the effects of a heavy landing earlier that day. The undercarriage could not be retracted and remained locked down for the duration of the flight. After becoming disorientated Flight Sergeant Copping ran out of fuel and crash landed in the Al Wadi Al Jadid desert, approximately 230 miles south west of Cairo. The Kittyhawk came down on a rocky escarpment in a particularly remote and desolate region. The flight took place during the first Battle of El Alamein and to date the remains of Flight Sergeant Copping have never been found. Discovered earlier this year by Polish oil workers, Kittyhawk ET574 is the last remaining example of an RAF Desert Air Force Kittyhawk and a unique survivor of the 3000 Kittyhawks originally supplied to the RAF. Between July 24th and 31st this year ET574 was successfully dismantled and transported from its desert crash site to a secure compound at El Alamein. It is planned that the Kittyhawk will eventually be displayed in the RAF Museum at Hendon (London) where it will serve as a reminder of the 4000 RAF airmen missing in action during the North African campaign.
Condition of Airframe
Aside from substantial damage caused by the crash landing (plus the subsequent unwelcome attentions of souvenir hunters who have smashed all the canopy glazing and instrument faces and removed several access panels from the fuselage ), at the time of its discovery the Kittyhawk remained remarkably intact. The propeller and spinner were torn off but remained in close proximity to the airframe while the shattered remains of both main wheels (plus sundry other parts) lay in a debris field extending some 300 yards behind the aircraft. The Kittyhawk was dismantled as closely as possible in accordance with official procedures and guidelines outlined in Air Publication 2014 Volume 1 (‘The Kittyhawk 1 Aeroplane – Curtiss Model H-87 A-2 and H-87 A-3’) with due deference towards the airframe’s severely weakened state. I will now summarise the condition of each major airframe assembly.
The fuselage has suffered very significant structural damage as a result of the crash landing seventy years ago. The back has been broken and several longerons severed between fuselage frames 9 and 10, this damage caused major problems during the dismantling process for the fuselage could not be supported at its normal trestling point, the monocoque shell having buckled and been rendered incapable of sustaining any loads. Indications as to the extent of the damage are visible externally in the region of the rear access hatch on the port side plus the corresponding skin sections on the starboard side. As a result the fuselage had to be very carefully hoisted from the wing by positioning the lifting straps forward of frame 9. This damage will greatly impede future reassembly of the Kittyhawk and will require considerable attention to detail and expenditure to overcome. The necessary repairs should be conducted in accordance with the original Curtiss Aircraft Company and Air Ministry structural repair procedures and only executed by qualified museum aircraft technicians. Additionally the forward fuselage bulkhead (at the junction of the firewall) in the engine compartment has been dangerously weakened by fire damage (an oil flash fire broke out during the crash landing, melting the engine supercharger, carburettor intake plus both aft rocker covers) the effects of which have induced severe corrosion on the upper fuselage panels (immediately forward of the cockpit canopy windscreen) further reducing strength in this region of the monocoque shell. The engine bearers are also badly rusted and corroded and should not be re-attached to the weakened forward fuselage bulkhead until their strength has been restored (preferably through non-invasive repair scheme methods outlined in RAFM Technical News Sheets applicable to this design of engine bearer); it is imperative no attempt is made to refit the engine until the necessary repairs have been conducted, any breach of this instruction will result in further damage to the airframe not to mention the possibility of severe injury to personnel.

The Kittyhawk wing is assembled to the fuselage as a single unit, both port and starboard sections being mated at a production joint along the centre line. The fuselage is affixed to the wing by 68 bolts (34 each side) attached to two longitudinal rails located on the wing centre section. Several of the forward bolts on ET574 had corroded to the extent that the surrounding metal had also been damaged. These bolts had to be drilled out and extensive repairs will be necessary before the aircraft is reassembled; structural strength having been heavily impaired. Additionally, both longitudinal rails have suffered distortion at the forward extremities due to the effects of the crash landing. This damage made removal of the fuselage a difficult and delicate operation and would similarly restrict any reassembly of the airframe unless comprehensive repairs are conducted beforehand.
The wings themselves also suffered extensive structural damage during the crash landing, particularly the port unit which received impact damage to the outer leading edge plus the loss of one third of the lower outboard skin. In addition to this the port undercarriage unit punched its way through the upper surface of the wing when the Kittyhawk initially impacted the rocky desert surface. The starboard wing is in better condition but skin damage and distortion are present throughout the outboard section.
While the Kittyhawk’s airframe remains largely intact its structural integrity has been severely compromised by the effects of the crash landing seventy years ago. Unless the aircraft can be properly and sympathetically repaired any attempts to remove the aircraft from its container for reassembly should be avoided. Such a course of action would cause irreparable damage to the airframe and be detrimental to this important artefacts long term survival.
In order to cancel load shift and thoroughly protect it during transit the Kittyhawk is presently packed and supported within its shipping container. It is strongly recommended that the aircraft remains within the container until it reaches the RAF Museum Conservation Centre in the UK.

Ian Thirsk
Head of Collections
Royal Air Force Museum
18th September 2012
Feb 2012 Accidental discovery in the Egyptian Sahara Desert , possibly initially by an Italian team who visited on 12th February and later by a Polish oil and gas prospecting company employee around 27th February. First reported and illustrated on a Polish modeller’s website the following month. Photos as initially found; Classic Aircraft June 2012 pp.6-7; Royal Air Force News May 18 2012 p.7; Aeroplane July 2012 p.7 and October 2006 pp.16-17; Classic Wings Issue 85, July 2012, p.10; Flightpath Vol 24 No 1 pp.72-75; Air Mail October – December 2012 pp.50-53.
Located in south-west Egypt in the Al-Wadi al Jadid desert region of central Egypt, near the El Farafra Oasis some 100 miles from the nearest village, and over 200 miles SW of Cairo.
Thought to be an aircraft of No. 260 Squadron RAF, coded HS-B (faint traces still visible on remaining paintwork) lost in the summer of 1942; aircraft serial number not immediately obvious.
Soon after discovery, the Egyptian military removed the ammunition boxes from the aircraft, still full of live .50in machine-gun ammunition.
The aircraft was basically complete with damage to the undercarriage (the port leg was sheared off and the starboard leg retracted), nose and propeller, and possible light flak damage to the radio compartment and upper rear fuselage. However, once its location became known the airframe suffered some removal of parts, although it was roughly marked off as a ‘Restricted Area’.
ET574 was quickly suggested as a possible identity, later confirmed by discovery of a data plate giving the ship number, 1035 (tying in with Curtis Construction Number 19761) and USAAF serial 41-35928. ET574 was a 260 Squadron RAF Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk 1A posted missing on 28 June 1942 along with its 25-year old pilot, Flight Sergeant Denis C H Copping.
227 Kittyhawk IAs (equivalent to the Curtiss P40E) were delivered to the RAF under Lend-Lease, serials included the ranges ET239-ET977 and EV114-EV431. This aircraft came from Lend-Lease Requisition BSC 322, contract DA-3 and is a P-40E-1CU model.
15 Mar 42 Built early in 1942 at Buffalo, New York, ET574 was shipped from New York via the tip of South Africa to Suez on the SS Mormac Swan and upon arrival in Egypt was likely prepared by No 107 Maintenance Unit (who painted over the original dark green areas of camouflage with Middle Stone desert camouflage and fitted a modified baggage hatch door lock) at Kasfareet before allocation to a Squadron.
By the beginning of June 1942 ET574 had been issued to 260 Sqn at Bir el Baheira landing ground (LG.140), joining A Flight. Profile of aircraft in its markings at this time; Air Mail October – December 2012 p.52.
27 Jun 42 Squadron based 30 miles east of El Daba at Landing Ground LG. 106.
28 Jun 42 One of several Kittyhawks flown on an early morning reconnaissance mission to ascertain the whereabouts of the Africa Corps, they encountered light but accurate flak and three Kittyhawks were hit.
Due to the German advance the pilots had to land their damaged aircraft at Bir Koraiyim (Landing Ground LG.09). ET574 had suffered a large calibre round through the rear fuselage plus other damage which rendered the undercarriage non-retractable.
During a frantic period of retreat for British forces from Libya into Egypt, ET574, in company with a similar aircraft (ET245) flown by Sgt Lionel ‘Shep’ Sheppard, took off on a ferry flight from Landing Ground LG.76 (south of Sidi Barranni in the Daba area) to No 53 Repair and Salvage Unit (RSU) at Wadi Natrun, with the intention of returning to the Squadron with two replacement Kittyhawks. However, the pilot, Flight Sergeant Denis C H Copping, appears to have selected an incorrect compass heading and flew off into the desert, eventually running out of fuel. His intended route would have required him to fly roughly on a heading of 110 degrees for 30-40 minutes only, but he is known to have flown instead on a heading of 210 degrees, which would have taken him further south-west instead of generally south-east. Sheppard repeatedly tried to persuade Copping to alter course but eventually had to break away, arriving at Wadi Natrun after some 1 hr 50 minutes flight time.
3 Jul 42 Recorded as 260 Squadron Cat E (total write-off) from Battle Damage (FB), being formally struck off charge on the same day.
Flight Sergeant Denis C H Copping remains unaccounted for; just one of over 3,000 airmen still listed as missing and commemorated on the El Alamein Memorial.
July 2012 Working closely with the British Embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian military
authorities, RAF Museum personnel, supported by Kennet Aviation, dismantled the aircraft for subsequent preservation and exhibition in the UK. The work involved in reaching and recovering ET574 was particularly testing. The crash site was over 50 miles from the nearest main road and lay on top of a rocky escarpment, severely restricting vehicle access. In addition, daytime temperatures routinely exceeded 50C, dictating that the team could only safely work at night. This unique aircraft has now been safely recovered to a secure location in a difficult and challenging operation undertaken with the close assistance and active co-operation of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

P40 Kittyhawk Recovery Method Statement


To recovery a P40 Kittyhawk that crashed landed during WW2 in Egypt. The aircraft is located in the Sahara Desert in a remote location and will need an experienced team to complete the task. The initial phase is to strip the wing and fuselage and return it to a less remote area before onward journey to the UK. The other aircraft parts located in the vicinity of the crash site are to be recovered at the same time.

Due to its location, a comprehensive tool kit will be needed along with a guide who better understands the extreme conditions of the area. A tool and equipment list has been sent to the Defence Attaché in Cairo.

Below is a summary of the proposed work required to disconnect the fuselage from the wing. In the first instance, the health and safety of the team is paramount.


The date and time for the start of the recovery is not known.

Pre-work Inspection:

Before any recovery work is commenced the following health and safety requirements need to be carried out:

1. Aircraft to be checked for asbestos and encapsulated if any found
2. Aircraft cockpit gauges to be sealed over to reduce radiation risk
3. Ensure that the aircraft weapon systems are disarmed and munitions are removed
4. Survey aircraft fuel system for any residual fuel
5. Survey aircraft hydraulic system for contents
6. Ensure that the oxygen system is dissipated
7. Remove any fire suppressant bottles (unless already fired)
8. Check undercarriage legs and tyres for pressure – reduce to a safe pressure if found inflated
9. Check structural integrity of aircraft – it is known that the spine of the aircraft is damage aft of the cockpit
10. Check structural integrity of engine bearer
11. Where possible remove any sharp objects. If removal is not possible, they should be suitably covered to reduce risk of injury
12. Carry out a survey for ‘specific to type’ hazards

Strip Phase:

A comprehensive procedure for removal of the wing is covered in the aircraft air publication – AP2014A volume 1, 2nd edition, section V, A2 paragraphs a to jj - see attachments 1 to 3.

Sub -grouping the strip phase, the basic operation incorporates

1. Trestling and supporting of aircraft (fuselage and wing)
2. Removal of cockpit equipment
3. Disconnection of engine and flying controls
4. Disconnection of fuel and hydraulic pipework
5. Disconnection of electrical plugs
6. Removal of quantity 68 wing to fuselage connection bolts
7. Separation of fuselage from wing – see lifting operation below

Lifting Operation:

The fuselage to wing lifting operation is covered in the air publication but requires an assessment for suitability once the structural integrity of engine bearer and spine area is known. It is more than likely a bespoke lifting operation assessment will have to be carried out at the crash site.

A suitable resting support should be constructed for the fuselage on the transport; this should be completed before the fuselage is lifted. A typical support could be build from stacking railway sleepers (or similar); these should be secured to the transport before the load is placed on them.

The wing lift should be completed in conjunction with the air publication, page 12 – see attachment 4. With no sling being available provision for lifting the wing has been made at the MBCC – these items will form part of the tool kit. The wing should be placed on suitable supports on the transport.

For other large objects a lifting operation assessment must be carried out before the lift is commenced.


For the recovery operation, suitable transport should be used to ensure the aircraft remains safe and devoid of any further damage. Before any load is moved it should be securely strapped down with foam (or similar) being used to prevent chaffing damage.


It is anticipated that the recovery phase will take 50 to 60 working man-hours (25 to 30 x2 persons) to complete.


The person for overall responsibility of the aircraft recovery is:

Ian Thirsk
Head of Collections
Royal Air Force Museum

Method statement complied by:

Darren Priday
Deputy Manager MBCC
Royal Air Force Museum


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Having read the post above by Robin Perrie, I think the RAF Museum gave it their very best shot, and should be commended. I can't imagine the current regime at the RAFM sanctioning anything as ambitious, that's for sure.


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My thanks Robin

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No probs

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Moderators investigating the disappearance of the post!

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Thanks for update!
Above and beyond your usual to post here!


By chance, now the aircraft is recovered and the area cleaned up, can sites GPS location be published?

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Seems odd that the RAFM team, who presumably took a full photographic record of their activities, never placed any such images in the public domain despite huge public interest in the undertaking.

Perhaps there was concern that interest would be aroused in Egypt, risking growing sentiment it should remain in the country.

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I notice that the latest information seems to have busted the previous narrative? Previously this went that the RAFM had some negotiation with Egypt to both recover the P40 AND repatriate it to the UK, but the pesky coup meant that the locals changed their minds on the final destination. Robin Perrie‘s post indicates that there was two phases in the operation and that the negotiations on where the P40 ended up were put aside until after it was securely scooped up into safety somewhere.

It is easy to see how debates and deals over the final destination could have run on forever and the pressing need was to secure the P40 before it was vandalised in situ. It’s hard to fault the RAFM for acting quickly, however the fact that the safe storage location was chosen as the El Alamein museum marks fairly clearly where certain parties intended the plane to finally end up. If it was bound for the UK then perhaps a location near a container port or airbase would be more likely rather than a wide deviation to a museum?

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However place it at an airbase and there is no guarantee that the people there will view it as anything more than scrap metal ! As to the negociations regards the P-40 - it would be very odd to be operating in Egypt with the co-operation of the Egyptian military and government without them being well aware of your intentions -ie you wished the aircraft to end up eventually in the UK.

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Is the text from Andrew Simpson, pasted by Robin, the first public mention of a recovered data plate which definitively links the P-40 to Denis Copping's ET574?

I very well may have missed previous discussion of the data plate. On a quick google search I have found no other talk of the direct confirmation of the aircraft's serial number.

I'd seen mention of a faint trace of an HS - B code -- such as one enhanced photo found on the Vintage Wings website, but that wasn't the irrefutable proof of the airframe's serial. That link:


Simpson's text regarding the HS - B code is:

Thought to be an aircraft of No. 260 Squadron RAF, coded HS-B (faint traces still visible on remaining paintwork) lost in the summer of 1942; aircraft serial number not immediately obvious.

Here is the relevant hard ET574-to-data plate evidence in the Simpson text from 2013, kindly posted by Robin:

ET574 was quickly suggested as a possible identity, later confirmed by discovery of a data plate giving the ship number, 1035 (tying in with Curtis Construction Number 19761) and USAAF serial 41-35928. ET574 was a 260 Squadron RAF Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk 1A posted missing on 28 June 1942 along with its 25-year old pilot, Flight Sergeant Denis C H Copping.

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It's easy now to say that the plan had two stages (especially as heads have rolled and some house cleaning done) but there could only have been one stage in reality, it would either be recovered to the care of the RAFM, or it wouldn't.

To claim partial success (a bridge too far springs to mind) is more typical of these modern times, much like the cr@p they teach the kids at school "there are no losers, you are all winners"

moving the p40 from one place in a volatile environment to another was not a success, (as said previously) any deal struck should have been for it to be delivered to the UK, the other aspect to the arrangement is the payment, the loudest voices in favour of the "deal" are personal friends, of the recipient of the spitfire, I have heard a value as little as £100k attached to the spitfire; when was the last time a complete airframe came up for sale at anywhere near that price? payment should have been made in cash.